Government looking at mandatory vaccines in South Africa: health minister

Health minister Joe Phaahla says that his department is discussing the introduction of mandatory Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.

Addressing media on Friday (27 August), Phaahla said that this is a matter that has been raised for official consideration, with the health department now discussing the conditions under which mandatory vaccines may be possible.

He said that no official determination has yet been made. Phaahla said that in his personal view it is unlikely that an official regulation will be introduced which states that everyone must vaccinate.

However, he said it is possible that certain jobs such as the services sector and the entertainment sector could require mandatory vaccines.

Phaahla said that the government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee is also looking at the possibility of booster doses for those who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

WHO science council member Salim Abdool Karim has said that Covid-19 vaccines should be made mandatory in South Africa, with exceptions only for those who cannot take a vaccine for strong medical reasons or religious reasons.

Karim told eNCA that the severity and seriousness of the pandemic mean that the option to take a vaccine is no longer a personal choice.

“When you (consider) the original virus that jumped from bats and came to humans, it probably just came into one person,” he said. “That one person has caused all the mayhem we have seen today, and probably didn’t even know that they caused it.”

Karim said that this is also the case for the Covid-19 variants which are currently spreading across the world, with these variants likely starting in just one or two people at most.

“So even one unvaccinated person poses that risk to the whole world. If that’s the case, and it’s a very strong one, then it can’t be simply a matter of personal choice. It has to be that for the public good that there is a vaccine mandate.”

Karim said that there may be certain individuals who cannot be vaccinated for strong religious or medical reasons, and concessions must be made for these people.

However, he said that these people will still need to be tested at least once a week to ensure that they do not put others at risk.

On Thursday (26 August), South Africa reported 12,771 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,734,973.

Deaths have reached 80,826 (+357), while recoveries have climbed to 2,485,108, leaving the country with a balance of 169,039 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 11,648,851 (+285,041).

Read: Treasury’s sombre warning about the proposed basic income grant for South Africa

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Government looking at mandatory vaccines in South Africa: health minister